Putin's election rekindles Orthodox Church debate

March 12, 2012

Vladimir Putin's election to a third term as Russian president has
spurred debates about civil society and church-state relations within
the Russian Orthodox Church since charges of vote fraud set off mass
protests following last December's parliamentary elections.

Andrei
Desnitsky, a theologian who supports demands for fair elections, said
that growing political activism among Orthodox Christians is a positive
outcome of the situation.

"Politically active Orthodox, who have
finally begun to discuss with each other how to connect their political
position with their faith, have gained from this," he wrote on
Pravmir.ru (the English-language version is Pravmir.com), a Rus­sian
Orthodox news and analysis website on March 6.

Russia's Central
Election Com­mission reported that Putin won 63.6 percent of the vote in
the March 4 elections. However, Putin's overwhelming victory has been
tarnished by accusations of ballot tampering. He became prime minister
in 2008 after serving two presidential terms.

In late December and
early January, Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I warned officials that they
must heed demonstrators' demands and fight corruption, which led to
speculation that he could play a major role as a mediator.

However,
following Putin's meeting with Russia's main religious leaders in
February, Kirill curtailed his criticism, angering and baffling many
Russian Orthodox supporters of the protests. At the meeting, Kirill
called the Putin era a "miracle of God."

Since the December vote,
the Pravmir site has become a platform for political discussion. Heated
arguments over the spiritual and political path Russia should take also
have broken out on Facebook.

"Later they'll say that they wanted
good things, benevolent reforms, and the improvement of morals among the
rulers," wrote Maksim Kozlov, rector of the Church of the Martyr
Tatiana, Moscow State University's parish church, who has been warning
that today's opposition leaders are provoking a replay of the Russian
Revolution of 1917.

Sergei Chapnin, editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate,
an official monthly magazine of the Russian Orthodox Church, was
attacked by Kozlov and Putin supporters in the church for writing on
Facebook the morning after the elections that victory came at the price
of buying "an impoverished electorate."

In an article published on the website of Neskuchny Sad,
an Orthodox magazine that covers social issues, Chapnin wrote: "I look
at Putin and I try to understand: will he want to, and will he be able
to, become president of the entire country, and not just of his
supporters. . . . To me, it's obvious that this goal cannot be achieved
without a huge, titanic moral effort."  —ENInews